no comments

It’s A Gem

Today Abby and I fly out to go to LA to see Brittany and Brendan and to help Britt set up her classroom for the new school year.

Am I happy?

Ummmmm…the pope is still Catholic, right? :-)

With my kids spread across the world map, these blips on the timeline of eternity are brilliant little diamonds.  Worthy of my thankful gaze.  Precious gems.  Beautiful.

The kind of  “diamonds” that truly are this girl’s best friend.

What if I looked at each day of my life as priceless?

Can I get my head around the fact that every morning that the sun rises is a treasured gift?

Waking to chirping birds and rustling leaves and the baying of the local mule, Frank, means my ears can hear.

Opening my sleepy eyes to see rays of sunshine and the furry faces of my pups means another day that my eyes can see.

The pain in my muscles as I trek up hills on my morning walk tells me I am mobile.

Laughing when I hear a joke, crying when I hear a sad story  means I can feel.

I can smell my coffee, I can touch a flower, I can hug a friend.

I AM ALIVE!!!!

THIS DAY is a gem.  Worthy of a thankful gaze.  A precious gem.  Beautiful.

Another chance to thank The One who lovingly watched us throughout the night, excited to show us today’s new heaven-tinted jewel!!!!

Psalm 118:24 – This IS the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Luke 1:78 – Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,

 Lamentations 3:22-23 – Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new EVERY MORNING; great is your faithfulness.

 

 

 

 

no comments

Brown Is The New Green

There was the quietest, most gentle sound that grabbed my attention today.

Rain!

It probably didn’t last more than two minutes, but that refreshment from heaven made me smile like a five-year-old in a candy store.

We are experiencing drought conditions in Northern California.  I think I can count on one hand the number of times it has rained since we moved here a year ago.  We’ve all been asked to cut back on our water  consumption by 25%, and our yards are testimony to the fact that we’ve complied.

The grass in our back yard more resembles hay than lawn, a far cry from the luscious green carpet it was just a few short months ago.

It’s killing me.

A sign in a neighbor’s yard reads, “Brown is the new green”.

If you know me you know I love green.  Green grass, green trees and plants.

Green signifies vital life.  Growth.  Thriving.

And green is no longer the first thing I see when I look out from my back porch.  Just a parched patch of land crying for more hydration.

They tell me the rains will come.  Nor for a while, but they will come.  I need to be patient and trust that it will happen, regardless of what I can see.   I need to not panic and take matters into my own hands by watering profusely (and ultimately paying the enormous fine that will accompany that kind of water usage).  I need to believe that “this, too, will pass”.

But as I walk barefoot across my nearly crunchy grass, my toes remind me that this is not how I want things to be.  I want green and I want it now!  Nothing inside me wants to wait and trust that this stubble of lawn will soon be a hazy memory when I once again look out onto a beautiful green lawn later this year.

How often am I like that in life?  Wanting to rush through the rough spots, the dry and parched times, and skip to the green?  How many times have I wanted to fix things my own way and not wait for God’ perfect timing and refreshment?

I just read that grass is able to come back after drought if the roots were well established before.  The grass with shallow, less mature roots will probably not make it through this rough patch.

How are my roots?  Am I fully grounded in that deeper soil that is more protected from the sun’s powerful rays?  When difficulty comes, am I so connected to Jesus that I can trust that I will come out stronger, “greener”, after the drought is over?  Is my first instinct to rest in those deep places, “beneath the soil”, as I wait for the refreshment of rain, a change of circumstances?

Sometimes there are things that NEED to die in my life.  Bad habits. Wrong motives.  Crappy attitudes.  Dysfunctional thinking. Often it’s a drought circumstance that has the power to kill these things off because they become more obvious.  Once those things diminish, new life comes back better than ever.

Jesus talked about the importance of something dying to produce more life in reference to his approaching death on the cross. John 12:24 – “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives.”  This same principle applies to us.  There is a new kind of growth that comes out of “death” and it ends up creating new life not only in us but in those around us.

Drought has a way of exposing our true character.  It reveals where our roots are.  There are still a few blades of green out in my lawn.  They stand out against the rest of the brown.  Apparently, they are well rooted and were prepared for the drought.  While I couldn’t notice them before when everything was well watered and green, now they look like strong little soldiers ready for the fight.

Drought doesn’t make a person.  It reveals a person.  It can kill us off or cause us to look at our roots and go deeper.

Eventually, the rains will come.  Refreshment from heaven will break through and our thirsty souls will have the chance to once again soak and savor the blessing of relief.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll appreciate each drop, be it a torrential downpour or a two-minute sprinkle, just a little bit more, knowing that even the drought had its reasons.

And we’ll have the opportunity to share that new life and the comeback from a drought with others who are thirsty.  Life perpetuating life.

So maybe brown really IS the new green, or at least green in the making….

Romans 5:3-5 – Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s lovehas been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

James 1:2-4 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 

no comments

Fool

Call me a fool

But I still believe

In love’s fairy tales

And sweet chivalry.

That dreams come in colors

And angels have wings

That stars really twinkle

That hummingbirds sing.

I’m sure I’ve heard pixies

In a wind blown tree’s branches

The breeze playing music

While the sunflower dances.

Call me a fool

But here’s what I know

That magic still happens

In the world’s greatest show.

That miracles come

In the strangest of ways

Every shape, every size

Every one to amaze.

That my Jesus who fashioned

The delicate flower

Draws lightning through skies

With omnipotent power.

I believe that HIs fingers

Can massage a hard heart

That His breath gives new life

And His death, a new start.

Call me a fool

But I know it’s true

That fairytales happen

And miracles, too….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

no comments

Anything But

Same ol’, same ol’.

Ho hum.

Same crap, different day.

Though I’ve used all of these phrases at some point, I have come to disbelieve every single one of them.

There is no reason that any day should be an exact replica of the last.

If “His mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23) then so are our possibilities with each rising of the sun!

We weren’t made to live just an ordinary existence of a monotonous life.  Our God is too creative, too loving to let that be enough.

We were “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)!

We were offered fathomless forgiveness and freedom!

We were given sweet redemption and promised life that extends beyond our time on this earth!

We have been loved beyond comprehension by One who “laid down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)!

We have been passionately rescued, lovingly adopted, graciously empowered!

There is NOTHING ORDINARY about our existence.

Every breath a gift.

Every opportunity a treasure.

Every encounter a miracle.

Every conversation cupping the possibility of making a difference, of touching another heart.

Every moment filled with the mystery of what could be inside.

If each day looks exactly like yesterday, then shame on us.

With what we’ve been given, with the magic of 24 untouched hours in front of us, how could we settle for carbon copy days?

We are surrounded by intricate beauty, by infinite personalities and invisible curiosities and thoughts.

We are anything but ordinary in an anything but ordinary life.

Look at this new day.

Gaze at it as unique.

Hold it carefully but enjoy it freely.

Drink every drop of its possibilities.

Let your mouth fall open in awe of what you’ve been handed: Not yesterday’s shadow, but today’s own glory.

Watch for what falls from its skies and gather it like manna – enough for this day, with promise for tomorrow.

Go and run into this day, arms wide open.

This brand new, very unordinary day…

“Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day…

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.” 
― Ralph Waldo EmersonCollected Poems and Translations

Psalm 118:24 – This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

 

 

 

no comments

Morning Walk

Diggin’ it…

mossy trees rock wall trail fence Mossy trees, old barn wood fences, huge rock walls, mountains and endless forest.

This is what my happy place looks like…. :-)  Just add water…

Sigh….

Psalm 19:1 – The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

3 comments

Aaaaahhhhh….

Tahoe

I am the only person with clothes on at this pool.

Literally.

No, this is not a nudist resort.  Everyone is decked in swimwear.

Except me.

I am still wearing the t-shirt and capris that I arrived in because our room wasn’t ready yet.  I look like an absolute middle-aged loser.

If I saw me, I would feel sorry for me.

Mark is in a Genentech meeting (the reason we get to enjoy this wonderful spot) and I have to spend the afternoon, reading, writing, lounging by the pool, albeit, in my clothes.

Violins, please?

It’s a strange thing to be in this setting as a mostly empty-nester.  Complete relaxation and absolutely no responsibilities.

No cute little brown bodies to watch over as they play in the kiddie pool.

No diapers to change or crying children to take back to the room for naps.

Not even any teenagers to keep an eye on as they stroll around in their little bikinis.

I should feel old.

But I just feel….well….really good.

I am free to lie on this lounge chair and take everything in, smiling at the giggling babies who are going into the water for the first time.

I can watch the little boy who is so diligently working on his sandcastle or the little girl who is jumping into her daddy’s arms at the deep end.

Eyes wide open or eyes fully shut if I want.

No schedule or obligation.  Just me and Jesus by the pool, humbled by my surroundings and thankful for the chance to “just be”.

Time to just sit and recount the past weeks and their miracles.

Moments to consider what comes next.

Quiet enough to hear Jesus’ secrets.

Available to opportunities but completely okay with solitude.

This is where my mind needs to be every so often.  My mind AND my heart.  Refuel and refresh.  No pouring in or pouring out, just resting.  Not a single expectation or obligation.

And, yes, I almost feel guilty.

Almost…

 

no comments

Extravagant

Extravagant.

ex·trav·a·gant
ikˈstravəgənt/
adjective
 – exceeding what is reasonable or appropriate; absurd.
Soak in that definition for a minute.
What comes to mind?
Beauty?
Riches?
Abundance?
Ridiculousness?
Yes!
Now apply that adjective to the word LOVE and you begin to get a glimpse of how God lavishes us with His intense care.
Mmmmmmmmm….Delectable.
Completely out of proportion.  Boundless.  Unending.
And indescribably beautiful.
Yesterday I was reading about Jesus feeding the 5,000 from a boy’s small lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish.
Miraculous that every single person in that massive crowd could get their fill.
But Jesus didn’t stop with just satisfying their hunger.  There were twelve large baskets of leftovers when people were done eating.
And what did Jesus say to His awestruck disciples?  “Make sure that nothing is wasted.”  He had a plan for even the overflow and though we don’t know exactly what that was, it was no doubt used to bless others who needed it.
Because that’s God’s heart.
Full to overflowing.  Nothing wasted.
Beautiful extravagance.
Love that covers more than the need, that stops at nothing to show us His heart.
That extravagant LOVE that went all the way to a cross to prove itself.
Always available.
Baskets of leftovers to be shared with others in need.
Not one drop wasted.
“Exceeding what is reasonable or appropriate; absurd.”
Wrap up in that extravagance and wear it throughout the day.  Share its abundant warmth with a world shivering without it.
Break apart the endless loaves and enjoy the taste with a very hungry crowd.
You are extravagantly loved…
1 John 3:1 – See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
Romans 8:38-39 – For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
John 6 – Story of feeding the 5,000

no comments

Questions?

My favorite teachers and profs in school were the ones who engaged us with a question.  A riddle that made us think about a problem instead of just giving us an easy answer.

If they posed it, it meant there had to be an answer.  And though it might have taken us several tries to actually “get” it, eventually we learned not only the answer but learned skills in looking beneath the surface.  We were pushed a bit beyond our normal box of thinking and developed the ability to dig deeper and look closer.  (For those of you who went to school with me, Mr. Booth comes to mind…:-) )

And wouldn’t you know it?  My very favorite teacher, Jesus, did (and does) the same thing.  We’ve been looking at the book of John in the 20’s and 30’s group that meets at our house on Tuesday nights.  We are only on chapter 6, but already in nearly every chapter Jesus has asked a question right at the point of a teaching moment.

Chapter 1 – Two of John’s followers who began following Jesus – “What do you want?”

Chapter 2 – Jesus’ mother, Mary – “Dear woman, why do you involve me?”

Chapter 3 – Nicodemus, part of the Jewish ruling council – “You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things?”

Chapter 4 – Samaritan woman at the well – “Will you give me a drink?”

Chapter 5 – Disabled man at the pool in Bethesda – “Do you want to get well?”

Chapter 6 – His disciples when 5,000 people gathered to hear Jesus – “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”

So many times we go to Jesus for answers, but how many times do we let Him teach us through the questions He poses?  Are we listening for those questions?  Are we ready to dig deeper with Him and look at the questions He asks as part of the process of learning the answer in a more profound and lasting way?

When Jesus asked me, “Does Leslie Marie know me?”  He already knew the answer.  But He wanted me to grow in finding out that answer and addressing it.  Isn’t it interesting that what I heard was a question and not a statement?  Hmmmmmm….

question mark

Maybe when we ask for an answer, Jesus asks us the question in return.  Maybe He’s asking us to look at His Word, to His character, to the things we know about Him and His heart to receive the answer.  Maybe we get a clear answer. And maybe by the time we do all of that, we find out we were asking the wrong thing in the first place.  That the answer we thought we were looking for pales in comparison to something far more profound that can change our thinking completely and deepen our faith and our connection to Jesus in ways we never dreamed.  And if we’re lucky, we may just come away with better spiritual vision than we had when we started the quest.

I think they call that wisdom.  :-)

I call it delicious.  Something worth savoring and enjoying, knowing that something of eternal worth just happened inside of us making us just a little bit more like our Favorite Teacher….

Mark 6:34 – When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. 

Luke 10:39 – Mary sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.

Matthew 13:11 – Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven…”

 

2 comments

Pulling The Thread

Blue Typewriter

I will never fully understand the workings of the divine fingers of my Jesus, but I so love it when allows me to see His hand so obviously  that it brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes in unadulterated awe.

A beautiful story that’s already been told is accumulating more illustrated pages as Jesus writes another chapter.   Just when you thought the ending couldn’t get any better, He comes and hands you another stack of pages, some filled in, some still blank, and you realize that the story will never really be over.  There is never truly a line that reads “The End”.

Because even when death takes one life and that soul flies wild and free toward eternity, there are hundreds of other lives, other souls, left in its wake.   Hearts that mourn the loss, hearts affected and impacted and loved by the one who’s gone on. There is a thread of connection and purpose that remains that will continue through generations.

But rather than continue on with this ethereal truth, I will share with you a story that illustrates God tugging at the connecting thread.  Pulling so gently and deliberately that if you are watching carefully you can see its affects on the surrounding fabric…

This morning at church, my friend Judy ran up to me as I was leaving.  Her hugs are a welcome part of my normal Sunday, but today was different.  She looked as if she had been missing me for years and was so relieved to see me. Today there was an intensity both on her face and in her embracing arms.  My first thought was that something was wrong.

“Have you talked to Ruth?” she asked.  (For a reminder of who Ruth is, please refer back to my post earlier this week – July 9).

Now I was certain something was wrong.  “No!  What is it?  Is she okay?”

The story that followed was something I had prayed for, but honestly never thought I would know the answer until I got to heaven.

I will not go into all of the beautiful details that Judy shared with me.  There is no way that I could do them justice.  This is her story.  But I did ask permission to share the just of what she told me here on the blog because it holds a familiar thread that you will recognize.  You are part of this story because you were part of a story in May.

Judy has a couple who are clients of hers.  They are an older couple and for some “strange” reason that Judy couldn’t understand, she felt a particular connection to the man.  A familial type connection that made no sense.  She meets with clients regularly and this feeling confused her.  Still, she couldn’t let it go.  She found that as she talked to the couple she was using phrases that she had never said before about her faith in reference to her occupation.  This, too, confused her.  As the couple went to leave, the man said, “I know this is strange, but I want to hug you.”  Judy said she felt the same way and offered him a warm embrace.

As he headed to the car, his wife said, “Please excuse my husband.  He isn’t really himself right now.  He just lost his daughter.”

Not until after they drove away did Judy realize with all the clarity that only the presence of the Holy Spirit Himself can give, that she had a connection to this man.

A coworker came upon her standing there, pale and shaken.  “Are you okay?” he asked.  “I think so…” was her only response.

This is when she grabbed me, looked into my eyes and said, “Jana, did you feel this way when Jesus spoke to you about Leslie Marie?”  I nodded, now shaking with goosebumps myself.

Because as Judy stood there God unraveled a mystery right before her eyes.  This man that she felt so connected to was, in fact, Leslie Marie’s father!  Leslie Marie whom she had prayed so diligently for, for months!  She had also been praying for this man, Leslie’s  father, for the past six months although she had never met him, never knew who he was.

Without her knowledge, God had placed the thread in her lap through the most unlikely circumstances, weaving through the every day fabric of life.

As soon as she confirmed that this was indeed the man she thought it was, she called the couple and asked them to each get on a phone so that she could tell them a story.  The story of our community at Blue Oaks praying for his daughter.  The story of how Jesus used Ruth, her dear friend and mine, to connect the dots between Leslie and me.

And if you’re in the dark right now, please go back to the posts in May about the miraculous way that Leslie Marie came to Jesus just weeks before she entered eternity after battling cancer.  The reason this thread is so obvious.  The reason that GOD Himself is so obviously at work on a continuing story.

As Judy told the story, the tears were immense.  A father’s heart for his daughter caressed by the knowledge that she was loved so deeply.  That Judy knew she was in heaven.

Later, his wife (and Leslie Marie’s stepmom) asked if it would be possible if Leslie’s father could meet with Ruth and me to hear the story firsthand of Leslie accepting Jesus.

At this point, I am nearly losing my mind!  What????  Would it be possible????  There is absolutely nothing in this world that I would love more than to meet with this man and tell him the most glorious story about his daughter and her newfound love for Jesus and the fact that she is enjoying eternal life right this minute!

And once again, my precious friends, this is where you come in.  The part of the thread that Jesus is asking you to hold.  To grab hands with me again and pray for this man and his wife and their extended family, LESLIE MARIE’s extended family, that Jesus would be so present in our time with him, and that His invitation to salvation would be irresistible.

Goosebumps and tears as I hugged Judy and Ruth this morning.  Sisters bound even closer by a thread that can never be broken.

Details will follow as I get them and as I’m given permission to share.  But in the meantime, thank Jesus with me for His never ending work in our lives, for the intricate, divine workings of Hands.  Those Hands that every so often He places around ours to let us be part of the miracle, allowing us to intwine ourselves with the thread, to feel its pull, to see its affects.

Judy, thank you for your spiritual availability to the voice of Jesus and for placing such gracious, willing, excited hands on this thread.  I absolutely love your heart and cannot wait to see where the next tug leads.

Sigh…I am spellbound by the God of wonders who invites us to join Him in this magic….

Ephesians 3:20 – Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Romans 11:36 – For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory.

Psalm 126:3 – Yes, the LORD has done amazing things for us! What joy!

no comments

Guaranteed Results

love never fails

Urban legend tells us that we only use about 10% of our brains.

But after reading an article in Scientific American and recognizing how active our entire brains are at all times to not only think but to keep us alive and functioning, I would concur with them that “Ultimately, it’s not that we use 10 percent of our brains, merely that we only understand about 10 percent of how it functions.”

It’s more an issue of exercising and feeding our brains to increase their capacity to think, reason and remember. Putting in more than 10% effort towards maintaining and expanding its capabilities.  (Strong note to self…)

The same could be said for each part of ourselves.

Our bodies. (Another note to self…)

Our hearts. (Sigh…)

Conveniently, I’m going to skip the body and go straight to the heart. :-)

If it’s not already obvious, I’m not talking about the muscle beating inside our chests.

I’m talking about the heart that has the capacity to grow until the day we die.  That place where love, compassion, empathy and kindness dwell.  Home to our character and integrity and who we truly are at our core.

There are no limits to the ways it can improve and change.  It’s the “muscle” that God most wants to massage and work on in us so that with every “beat” it pumps out love for Him and those around us.

Like our brains and bodies, our hearts need to be exercised and fed to maximize their potential.

But what does that look like?

It’s not as obvious as the body’s gym or the mind’s intensive study.

It’s not a particular method or  set of steps.

It’s just practice.

It’s waking up to a new day and asking Jesus to join us in it.  To lean into His heart that we see in His word and to ask Him to put corrective lenses on our hearts’ eyes as we go about our day.

 

To ask for help in deliberately looking for ways to place a toe just over the edge of our comfort zones and show kindness, mercy and grace to the people we come across.  To love the people in our homes with everything in us and extend that love to neighbors, friends and strangers.

Growing hearts look for needs and respond.  They listen intently.  They push past the comfort of “easy” and stretch into the territory of “difficult” for the benefit of another.

Every heart has its own flavor.  Some quiet, some loud.  Some introverted, some extroverted.  But every single heart has a God-given purpose to affect the lives of others through love.

Let’s be each other’s cheerleaders, growing hearts that are running together on this track of life, constantly getting instruction from our ever-present Personal Trainer. Let’s not be afraid to venture into the uncharted territory of unexplored ways to extend His love to others.  Let’s hold hands with eyes wide open to the opportunities and possibilities that Jesus will offer us and run headlong into the glorious unknown, feeling parts of hearts we never even knew existed.

Can you even imagine the results????

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13 – Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 

Proverbs 4:23 – Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Matthew 6:21 –  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 871 other followers